As you’ve probably learned by now, the series we’re calling “I AM CEDIA” is about connecting with our members, finding out how they got into the business, and learning about their lives.
They tell us their story.
Then we share those stories with you.
Here in their own words are Jamie and Jeff Briesemeister of Integration Controls in St. Louis. They’ve been members of CEDIA since 2005.
ON HIRING AN INTERIOR DESIGNER AND OTHERS
Working with interior designers, architects, and builders is a very specialized interaction, and being able to speak to them in their language is crucial. It's great to have someone on staff that knows how to address the design community in ways that I can’t. Plus – the training involved to become an interior designer involves many of the same skills we look for in an employee, such as creating CAD/3D drawings, lighting and shade specification, project management, and so on.
I find it fascinating that of the business owners I've talked to, coupled with our own personal experience, people with car audio backgrounds tend to be great installers and integrators. Again – the skillset is similar: they work in small spaces with tiny wires and the aesthetic has to be there or it will get noticed.
It’s been interesting how our business has changed, having an interior designer on board. Since our marketing efforts have primarily targeted architects and the interior design community, it’s been wonderful having someone on our team that can relate to them and help address our systems in ways they can understand. ON PERSONAL STRUGGLE AS INSPIRATION
Where do I begin? Most recently, and probably the biggest obstacle that I've personally overcome, was a medical hurdle that was discovered in late 2012. I was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm, and in spring of 2013 I had brain surgery — and it was life-changing. Jeff:
I mean, it's my wife. It's the mother of my child. At the time, we were trying to have another child, and now this life-changing event happens. It makes you do a lot of soul-searching. It makes you ask the question, “Is this all worth it?” Does it make sense for us to keep going down this path? It's been interesting the way that that kind of event affects your personal life, and when you're this involved in a small business – when you're only six to eight people – it really can affect everything you do. Jamie:
We only have so much time on this planet … To be able to save minutes turning lights on and off and to be able to have a more comfortable atmosphere at home because someone’s not getting yelled at or because they left the garage door open or didn't lock the front door or didn't turn off the light – all of those moments really matter and it became even more apparent when you're staring at your own mortality. ON BACKGROUND AND FAMILY
If someone had told me that I would be selling home technology 20 years ago, I would have not believed them in the least bit. I was a practicing speech-language pathologist and worked with children with disabilities. Unfortunately, I burned out quickly and when the opportunity came to change my profession, I took it.
In high school, I thought I wanted to be a journalist and I wrote a lot, for the school paper and for fun. (I once had a poem published!) If I wasn't doing this I would probably be a writer or inspirational speaker.
I've grown up around live theater, live music, studio music. My father had a recording studio here in St. Louis and started recording gospel, drifting into rock and roll bands. He actually found out the rock and roll people were willing to give their last dime to get their recording out there. As a theater service person, he was fundamental in installing some of the first Dolby Digital systems in theaters here in St. Louis.
The first business I started was a car audio shop. I saw a need when I lived in Lake of the Ozarks for somebody to do that kind of work. There were a couple of businesses in the area, but they were mediocre at best, so I thought I saw a need and I enjoyed the work.
We have one son: Logan, eight years old. He has an amazing, amazing mind. He is one of the most unique kids I've ever been around, and I don't say that just as a parent, because we hear it from almost everybody that meets him. I mean, this is a kid that used his Christmas money to buy a heavy brass sundial. Who does that? ON THE JOY OF THE JOB
I love working with people and creating something new and special and custom that's almost like magic in their house. Jeff:
I just like being able to create solutions where people are actually comfortable again with the overwhelming aspects of the technology in their lives. That, and I guess I just love making people happy. Jamie:
The biggest luxury that we all have is time and it's something that no one can create or fabricate or make more of. If we can provide more time back to our clients, then we've succeeded. ON THE BUSINESS AND THE OFFICE
The best advice that I've received as a business owner would probably be to slow down a little bit. Enjoy the downtime when you can. Use it to plan. Use it to structure and try and work towards that work/life balance, which is ever so elusive. Jeff:
You can't be a technician and be a business owner. For some people, it does work if they're one- and two-man shows – that works out for smaller operations. But – when you're in a company that grows into more people — beyond six to eight people, you can't be both technician and owner.
We bought our building about four years ago and had the ability to remodel parts of it. It was exactly what we wanted when we started this journey: a business that looks like a home. Through remodeling our workspace, we fully updated some rooms and partially updated others to show what it would look like for new construction and homeowners that would install things in an existing home.
CEDIA has helped our business in a variety of ways, one of which would be the training that we receive. Both business and technical — we've learned a lot about how to better our business, how to structure our business, how to price everything. At the annual tradeshow, I have countless conversations with peers, sharing business wins – and losses.
Being a CEDIA Outreach Instructor offers me the opportunity to approach a design professional with something legitimate to offer instead of a sales pitch. Providing continuing education helps create the dialogue needed to bring the professionals we work with – architects, designers, builders, and so on – together as a team. ON THE PHILOSOPHY CALLED “CARE”
I believe our clients hire us because they know that we will care about their space as much as they do. Their children are there, they have valuables, and they have to trust the people in their home – now and in the future. Our clients know that they have a technology go-to person that will be there beyond the initial sale. Jeff:
We've learned when not to take on a project, and it's been hard, because there are a lot of things we know we are capable of doing. It’s hard to decline a referral when they are like, "Hey, do you want to do this big commercial video wall project? I know you guys can do it."
At this point, I think, our overall objective is to make sure we pick projects and we pick clients that are a really good fit for us, and specifically for our value structure. Jamie:
On the plane home, after the first Business Xchange, we were brainstorming on how to quickly capture who we are in a way that we could share with our clients and share with our staff. Everything pointed to the fact that we care: that is our secret sauce. CARE became an acronym. It stands for being Candid, Attentive, Responsible, and Ethical. We value our CARE statement with every interaction and as such, when we run up against a situation where an employee, client, or design professional doesn’t care – it’s typically not the right fit for us.